In the eyes of South Africa, she does not exist. Her name is not found in public records nor does she hold a birth certificate or ID card. This means further education, traveling out of the country, and holding an esteemed job is impossible. After all, how can someone that does not exist hold a passport to travel? How can an educational institution issue a certificate to someone that cannot be found in state records? While the rest of the PYB team prayed in homes down the mountainside, I (Elizabeth) stayed back with my fractured foot and heard her story.
This is the story of Rose. A young woman in her mid-20's who currently works as the assistant to the director of Michael's Children's Village and Village of Hope. She looks like a regular hard-working, beautiful African woman. However, I found much more in her -- determination, curiosity, and great wisdom. Outside children played on the dirt roads, swung from banana tree branches, and ran in and out of their cement block or tin homes. Inside, she shared her story. Due to lost documents and unhelpful government offices, Rose has had no form of identification since birth. In South Africa, that literally means you are no one. You do not exist. You have no future. She attended primary school and excelled despite a rocky home situation. Soon her family life crumbled and she was transplanted into a foster home. This only made her more resilient and determined.
Her dreams led her to attend college for business, but she was once again faced with her lifelong problem -- you don't exist in the system, you have no identification. Additionally, she needed 600 rand (around $60) to attend and only had 400 rand (around $40). She visited the college offices everyday for weeks pleading, "I want to learn! I just want to learn more! Please let me attend classes." When school began, she persistently attended classes without being a student. Finally, the administration conceded and gave her permission to be a student with a guarantee that she would earn no degree. At the perfect time, she received a surprise gift of 200 rand from her birth father enabling her to begin college! She worked diligently and at the end of her education, the college awarded her top honors along with the degree she had worked so hard for! Her story continued with one miracle after another and she only gave credit to God. She repeated continually, "God is always faithful." The determination in her voice made me believe she could accomplish anything God called her to. "Not existing" to man is not a problem for God.
Sitting together and talking in the village of "Back Door" at the very top of a mountain, I realized how very different yet alike we were. She walked about the room cleaning as we continued chatting. "I dream to see the world and discover new places." She was so curious and eager to learn. I asked her where she would visit if she could go anywhere in the world. Her face lit up as her mind seemed to search the world and all its wonders to be explored. Finally, she replied in her strong accent, "Chicago! It seems like a nice place and the name is fun to say...Chiiicagooo. Then, I think Israel and Zimbabwe!" Quickly her expression changed to one of agony, "I want to see the world, but I cannot. I have no ID card." With no identification or passport, she will never leave South Africa. However, Rose repeated confidently, "God is always faithful and he knows my desires."
Rose's story weighed on my shoulders as she carefully and curiously asked me, "So how is America?" I didn't know how to reply. "Well, it's not like in the American movies," I said and smiled. I didn't know how to begin explaining a world so different from a poor village on a South African mountainside. I just wanted to invite her to visit America, show her, and let her see for herself the beautiful diversity of America's landscapes and people. Yet that's not so easy. In fact, it's impossible for her right now.
Her determination, curiosity, and wisdom has me completely convinced that she will see the world someday. For Rose, "not existing" is not a problem. God has miraculously paved the way before her countless times before. She inspired me to never lose the wonder I feel when seeing new places. It is a privilege. She reminded me that challenges produce character and wisdom. Rest in joy. She inspired me to not lose hope I have in seemingly impossible situations. God is always faithful.
Her story can also inspire students everywhere to have determination and not take for granted the privileges of further education. Rose is just one of the many people we have met so far. Throughout our journey, we would like to introduce you to special people we meet along the way.
Here is a short recap of our weekend. We spent the day at Village of Hope again on Friday praying for people down the mountainside and playing with the children at the feeding program. Saturday, we had a relaxing day with a picnic and walk at the Lowveld Botanical Gardens in Nelspruit. Everything was beautiful and green. We were in awe even though it began pouring rain on us twice. That night, we came back to a braai at ASM with chicken kebabs and boerewors. Delicious! We could really get use to this eating. On Sunday, we attended an Afrikaans church service. It was an Apostolic Faith Mission church. Emily, Klarissa, and Zach did the entire children's service for ages 3-15 while the rest of us attended the regular service. It was all in Afrikaans so we all got an interesting cross-cultural experience! The rest of the day we relaxed and debriefed about our trip so far. Wonderful first week in South Africa!
Prayer Focus: Pray for the students as they begin a class at ASM called Walking With Wounded Children. It is about ministering to destitute and hurting children.